en Why the Black-Footed Cat Is Capturing the World's Attention A clip from BBC One's "Big Cats" series featuring an adorable, albeit lethal, feline has gone viral. The video, which has garnered over 50,000 retweets on Twitter, focuses on the African black-footed cat and her title as the deadliest cat on the planet. 
People can't seem to get enough of the black-footed cat, which looks more like a sweet house cat than a vicious predator but has a wildly impressive 60 percent kill rate during hunts. 
So what else should we know about the black-footed cat? Well, plenty. Nicci Wright, the consultant to HSI-AFRICA and wildlife rehabilitation specialist at the JHB Wildlife Veterinary Hospital in Midrand, South Africa, filled petMD in on the details about this impressive feline. 
The small, but mighty black-footed cat (adults usually weigh between 3.9 and 4.4 pounds), "reside in the arid regions and selected scrubby grassland areas of South Africa and possibly marginally into Zimbabwe and Botswana," Wright explained. 
With their distinct markings and spots, the black-footed cat is almost like a leopard, in more ways than one. "They have a specific attitude which is peculiar to the species and are like miniature leopards in that they are remarkably athletic hunters, solitary, strong and brave cats," Wright said. 
These small cats, which can hunt upward of 14 times a night (!), "live in disused termite mounds or burrows," Wright said. "Rodents such as gerbils and shrews are the black-footed cat's main prey items, followed by small birds and invertebrates such as scorpions and small snakes."
Listed as a "vulnerable" species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the cat is "protected by the national conservation laws of South Africa where hunting or keeping them is illegal," Wright said.
Even with the laws protecting them, the black-footed cat, the rarest of the Felidae species in Africa, faces troubles due to habitat loss from farming, Wright said. "Awareness and education are the keys to preserving this incredible cat which so few people even know about," she said. 
Image via Shutterstock 
Read more: Asiatic Cheetah on the Brink of Extinction, Only 50 Remaining in the World
]]> cat Lifestyle & Entertainment Mon, 22 Jan 2018 14:55:51 +0000 36766 at
Diabetic Alert Dogs Help Children in Need  
When people with diabetes experience a drop in blood sugar, symptoms can occur suddenly. They may feel dizzy, shaky, confused, irritable, anxious, or lethargic. If left untreated, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can cause unconsciousness or seizures. While monitoring devices can alert diabetics when their blood sugar drops, some families are turning to service dogs for help.
Paws and Affection, a nonprofit organization in the greater Philadelphia area that trains service dogs for children with disabilities, got its first two diabetic alert dogs in 2017. “Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed between the ages of 3 and 7,” says Executive Director Laura O’Kane. “It was a good fit for who we want to help and broadened our base of applicants.”
Benefits of Diabetic Alert Dogs
Diabetic alert dogs are trained to detect when someone’s blood sugar is lowering, says Susie Daily, training and program director at Paws and Affection. The dogs react to a chemical change in the person’s body, sniffing out a distinct odor that is undetectable by humans.
“They can be more accurate than your equipment. Often, they can tell you sooner—as much as 20 minutes sooner,” says Daily, a certified professional dog trainer. “It’s really helpful for people who have hypoglycemic unawareness, which means you’re not picking up on the cues your body might be giving that your blood sugar is dropping, so the dog is noticing for you.” Once alerted by the dog, the child can test her blood sugar and take the appropriate steps to bring her blood sugar level back up.
These savvy dogs have another leg up on machines: “You can’t turn the dog off,” O’Kane says. “If you ignore the dog, they will continue to alert you.” If the child doesn’t act, the dog is trained to go find help.
Diabetic alert dogs also provide a sense of security for families, especially when it’s time to go to sleep. “If your blood sugar drops when you’re asleep and you don’t hear the monitor go off, it can be a matter of life or death,” O’Kane says. “It is reassuring that the dog is there and will tell you if your blood sugar drops in the night.”
Paws and Affection trains its dogs for about two years before placing them with a recipient. “We get the dogs at 8 weeks old, and we train them until they’re 2 years old,” O’Kane says. To train its two Labrador Retrievers, Totie and Violet, the team uses scent samples from volunteers with diabetes. The scent is then paired with food, so the dog associates the odor with a reward. “We gradually start to move toward having them actually search for that scent,” Daily explains. “The next step is then hiding it on our bodies, and it’s tucked in my shoe or tucked in my pocket. When they find it…jackpot.”
Empowering Children
O’Kane was inspired to found Paws and Affection after reading Through a Dog’s Eyes by Jennifer Arnold. Arnold has trained service dogs for people with physical disabilities or other special needs for more than 25 years through her nonprofit organization Canine Assistants in Georgia. In September 2011, O’Kane traveled to Georgia to complete a teaching method course under the direction of Arnold.
To gain classroom experience, O’Kane became an assistant at a local pet dog training company. That’s where she met Daily, the lead trainer at the time. “We immediately clicked as friends but also with our philosophies on how to train dogs and how to treat dogs. And understanding how powerful they are and how they can help people,” recalls O’Kane, who is a certified professional dog trainer. Not long after O’Kane got her dream business off the ground, she brought on Daily as head trainer and program director.
O’Kane spends most of her time raising funds and managing the organization’s day-to-day operations while Daily teaches the dogs new skills and takes them on socialization adventures. The dogs spend their days learning at the facility and live with foster families on nights and weekends until they are ready to be placed. “It does feel good for us to see all the work we’ve put into the dog and the love we’ve put into the dog to then go on to graduate and do the job we’ve been training them for,” O’Kane says.
In addition to Totie and Violet, Paws and Affection currently has two Golden Retrievers who will be trained to work with children with physical disabilities or psychiatric impairments. The organization trains its service dogs to do a variety of tasks, such as opening a door for a child in a wheelchair, offering balance support for a child with a mobility disability, or picking up dropped items for a child who gets dizzy when bending over.
“Our goals are to help kids,” Daily says. “In the end, what we’re looking for is independence on the part of the child that they might not have had prior to having this dog. It’s magical seeing them work together.”
]]> dog Health & Science training Fri, 19 Jan 2018 16:47:25 +0000 36740 at
Kitten Stolen from Massachusetts Adoption Center "How could someone do such a thing?" 
It's a question many have been asking themselves since Jan. 18, when a woman came into the MSPCA-Nevins Farm Adoption Center in Methuen, Massachusetts, and stole a 2-and-a-half-month-old kitten named Caramel. 
"The torbie (brown with some orange markings) kitten was stolen by a woman described by staffers as Caucasian, approximately 5 foot 6 inches tall and weighing 200 pounds," MSPCA spokesman Rob Halpin told petMD.
"The [60-something-year-old] woman was driving a light-colored Ford F150 extended cab pickup truck," he said. "However, security cameras installed on the property failed to capture the license plate number." 
Police are currently investigating the incident and searching for the suspect. They urge anyone with information on Caramel's whereabouts to contact the proper authorities, and the adoption facility where she was taken from, as soon as possible. (You can see video footage of the suspect here.) 
"At this point, our number one priority is getting Caramel back in our care," said Meaghan O'Leary of the MSPCA-Nevins Farm.
Image via MSPCA-Nevins Farm Adoption Center
Read more: Should Kittens Get Microchip IDs?
]]> adoption Care & Safety cat kitten Fri, 19 Jan 2018 14:43:31 +0000 36741 at
Why Are Some Dogs More Aggressive? In a new study, researchers from the University of Arizona examined the influence of two hormones—oxytocin and vasopressin—on canine social behavior and aggression.
Oxytocin has been popularized by the media as the “love” hormone. It plays an important role in birth, the formation of bonds, and social behavior. It may also work to suppress the release of cortisol (the body’s main stress hormone) and may work in opposition to vasopressin. Vasopressin has been implicated as a trigger for what’s called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which enables the body’s “flight-or-fight” response.
The study was featured in a recent National Geographic article, which stirred up a lot of interest in the role vasopressin and oxytocin may have in affecting aggressive behavior in dogs. Psychologist and anthropologist Evan MacLean and his colleagues found that the presence of vasopressin was more strongly associated with aggressive behavior in dogs than oxytocin.
Two groups of dogs were recruited for the study. The case group consisted of dogs who have exhibited aggressive behavior toward other unfamiliar dogs. The control group consisted of dogs who did not exhibit aggressive behavior toward other dogs. In random order, the two different groups of dogs were exposed at a distance to either a person interacting with an inanimate object or a stuffed dog of three different sizes. Each dog experienced a total of six trials so they were exposed to all three dog decoys and three inanimate objects.
Blood samples were taken before and after the trials to measure the dogs’ vasopressin and oxytocin levels. The study found that high levels of vasopressin were associated with the higher degree of aggression exhibited during the trials.
In the second part of the study, dogs bred to be assistance (service) dogs were evaluated in two conditions: exposure to a threatening person and an unfamiliar dog. The service dogs had higher blood oxytocin levels than normal pet dogs. This may imply that the service dogs are calmer due to higher levels of oxytocin in their system. It is not surprising that the service dogs were calmer, since these dogs have been selectively bred for calm temperament for over 40 years.
Treating Aggressive Behavior in Dogs
So, what do the findings of this study mean for pet owners? Should we routinely check the oxytocin and vasopressin levels of all dogs who exhibit aggressive behavior? If we have an aggressive dog, should we have our veterinarian prescribe the use of oxytocin or administer a vasopressin antagonist?
Before everyone rushes out to have blood samples drawn from their dogs, they must keep in mind that this was the first study of its kind to look specifically at the levels of oxytocin and vasopressin. It does not necessarily mean that modulating these hormones will resolve a dog’s aggressive behavior. Remember that aggressive behavior is distance-increasing behavior and can be a part of a normal behavior repertoire in response to what the dog has perceived as a threat. Behavior involves a complex interaction of genetics, learned experiences, and physiological responses.
The authors of this study discussed other studies in which administration of vasopressin at times inhibited aggressive behavior. But there are too many unknown variables involved in the study of aggression in both humans and animals. We need to take into account the concentrations of the hormones in the body, where the receptors are located, and whether the receptors are actively working along with the presence of other neurotransmitters that also affect behavior. We do not know if vasopressin causes the aggressive behavior or if the high vasopressin levels are in response to a perceived threat.
Discussions with some of my colleagues who have used oxytocin to treat fear-related or aggressive behavior revealed that some cases were met with success, but in other cases, oxytocin did not appear to be helpful. The difficulty also lies in finding a commercially available and stable product to be used. Currently, I still rely on my serotonin-modulating medications in addition to behavior modification exercises to treat a dog who exhibits aggressive behavior. More studies are needed to test the efficacy of oxytocin in treatment of aggressive behavior and if blocking or reducing vasopressin levels can be another treatment option.
Dr. Wailani Sung is a board-certified veterinary behaviorist and co-author of “From Fearful to Fear Free: A Positive Program to Free Your Dog From Anxiety, Fears, and Phobias.”
]]> behavior dog View Thu, 18 Jan 2018 21:27:36 +0000 36736 at
Special Needs Pit Bull with Big Heart Saved from Euthanasia Debo’s time was up. The Pit Bull mix was suffering from eye, ear, and skin infections. He was underweight and battling heartworms and hookworms. His owners could no longer afford his medical care.
They brought the 6-year-old dog to Lesslie Animal Hospital in Rock Hill, South Carolina, to be euthanized.
That’s when Suzy Blocker got the call.
“The veterinary team knew this dog could be saved,” says Blocker, vice president and co-founder of Carolina Big Hearts Big Barks Rescue in Charlotte, North Carolina. “They fell in love with his personality and asked if there was any way we could take him in. I was like, ‘Of course!’”
Carolina Big Hearts Big Barks doesn’t take what Blocker calls “the easy dogs.” Since its founding in 2015, the group’s volunteers and fosters have helped save more than 300 dogs, including plenty of medical cases like Debo’s.
But as eager as she was to help him, Blocker feared it wouldn’t be easy to find a foster parent who could take on a dog with such special needs.
Finding a Foster Home for Debo
For three years, Kristen Bright served as the vice president of K9 Kokua in Waianae, Hawaii, a rescue group she co-founded that helped dog owners who were homeless or victims of domestic violence. She and her orange tabby, Patrick, fostered close to 20 dogs for her group, as well as the Oahu SPCA and Hawaii Italian Greyhound Rescue.
But when she moved to North Carolina, she knew she needed to take an emotional break from rescue work. After a five-year hiatus, Bright decided she was ready to get back into fostering.
That’s when she saw Debo.
“I saw his post and story, and despite all his medical needs, I was like, ‘That’s the dog I’m supposed to start this adventure with again,’” she recalls.
When Bright first took him in, Debo was severely underweight. He was still in pain from his infections, and suffering from heartworms and parasites.
But she fell in love, like everyone else.
“Debo has an awesome personality,” Blocker says. “He is one of those dogs that walks in and the whole room lights up. He loves everyone.”
“He's never met a stranger,” Bright says. “If he barks at you, it means ‘pet me.’”
After being in her care for only a few weeks, Debo is a “happy, grinning bundle of love,” Bright says. Many of Debo’s skin, eye, and intestinal problems have been addressed, and he’s back to his optimal weight of 70 pounds.
But the dog’s ear infections were so bad, they wouldn't respond to even the strongest antibiotic. The doctors determined Debo’s ear canals had to be removed. Both of them.
Debo’s Road to Recovery
After the first surgery, Debo was in so much pain, he had to go on anti-anxiety medicine.
“He’s still trying to pull his stitches out,” Bright says. “Then he just looks at you like, ‘I am so sorry.’”
His next surgery is scheduled for early 2018. Once it’s done, he will have lost most of his hearing.
It’s hard for Bright to imagine how someone could have let Debo get to the point where he was so emaciated and infected. But she believes he once had an owner who loved him.
“At some point, he had an owner who taught him his manners,” she says. “He’s a very intelligent, treat-motivated dog who really wants to please.”
Bright is now working on hand commands so his next owners will be able to communicate with him even if he can’t hear. So far he’s learned the signs for sit, yes, come, and food.
After his second surgery is complete and he’s healed, Debo will start his heartworm treatment and should be ready for adoption by March or April.
Blocker estimates Debo’s total care will cost about $4,500. She says Lesslie Animal Hospital (which did not respond to calls for this article) is providing the medical care at a discount. Carolina Big Hearts Big Barks Rescue has been able to raise funds for his medical care.
“We’ve been blessed to collect almost as much as we need,” Blocker says.
Of course, Bright considered keeping Debo. But she lives alone and thinks he needs more people to love than just her and Patrick. He’s great with kids, cats, and other dogs, she says. He deserves a family.
“He's been through a lot and still has a long way to go,” Bright says. “But he's one of the best fosters I've ever had, and some family is going to be super lucky to have him.”
Image courtesy of Kristen Bright
Read more: Meet Cinderella, the Blind Senior Pug Given a Second Chance
]]> care Care & Safety dog rescue Thu, 18 Jan 2018 15:28:36 +0000 36721 at
The American Kennel Club Recognizes Two New Dog Breeds The Nederlandse Kooikerhondje and the Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen are already off to a great start in 2018, as both of these dog breeds have received full recognition from the American Kennel Club. They are the first new additions to the club's roster since 2016. 
The AKC announced on Jan. 10 that both of these breeds have joined its storied family. The Nederlandse Kooikerhondje, which will belong to the Sporting Group, is "a spaniel-type dog that originated hundreds of years ago in [Holland] as a duck hunter." This medium-energy dog, with its red and white coat, has distinctly noticeable ears. 
The Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen, on the other hand, will be categorized in the Hound Group. This fellow medium-sized dog, which originated in France as a rabbit hunter, is "a laid-back, intelligent, friendly pack hound that gets along well with other dogs. These dogs are courageous and passionate workers with a high activity level." 
While these newcomers won't be able to compete in the Westminster Kennel Club dog show until 2019, they're already in good company. The AKC, which is the largest purebred dog registry in the United States, currently recognizes 192 breeds. To be associated with the AKC, a breed must have at least 300 dogs in roughly 20 states. 
Image via Shutterstock 
Read more: How to Find the Right Dog Breed Group for Your Family
]]> dog Lifestyle & Entertainment Thu, 11 Jan 2018 15:13:23 +0000 36701 at
Meet Cinderella, the Blind Senior Pug Given a Second Chance  
With a name like Cinderella, it’s only fitting that this darling senior pug gets nothing short of a fairytale ending.
Cinderella’s date with destiny began in September 2016, when dog lover Jessica Aliff came across the blind senior with diabetes in a Facebook group for pug rescuers.
Aliff, who already owned three dogs, recalls the sense of urgency she felt in wanting to give Cinderella a good home. “I knew I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't at least try to get her,” she told petMD.
After meeting with Cinderella’s foster family, Aliff adopted her and brought her home to meet her new pug siblings, Poncho, Nikki, and Ollie.
Though “life is a bit more hectic” with four dogs in the house, Aliff is able to give them all a happy, healthy, and familiar lifestyle while taking care of Cinderella’s specific needs. “I have to be on a much stricter feeding schedule because of [Cinderella’s] insulin needs, but I always tried to feed them at scheduled times,” she said.  
In addition to insulin, which she needs twice daily, Cinderella has to have her blood glucose levels tested and eats prescription foods from her veterinarian. (“Treats are limited, but she does get small treats when she gets her insulin and one each night before bed,” Aliff said.)
Even though Cinderella is blind (she had her eyes removed to relieve pain), she still has the energy and personality of any other pug.
“Cinderella does not act any differently than she was before surgery,” Aliff said. “She still charges around the house trying to keep up with me.”
While Cinderella does sometimes need assistance with getting up and down stairs, Aliff said she makes her way around the house, and through life, with determination.

“She is very feisty and persistent,” Aliff said of Cinderella. “If one of our other dogs starts roughhousing, she gets right into the action. She has no idea she's the smallest of the bunch!”
Cinderella has changed Aliff’s life in ways big and small over the past year, and she hopes her story inspires others to give senior dogs, especially those with special needs, a chance to thrive.
There may be financial obstacles along the way, and you have to surround yourself with a good support team, but taking care of a dog like Cinderella is worth it, Aliff noted. “You may have to give a little more TLC,” she said, but these grateful, wise, and caring dogs will give it all back and then some.
]]> adoption Care & Safety dog Tue, 09 Jan 2018 21:17:10 +0000 36693 at
Dog Left Outside by Owners Dies in Frigid Temperatures Bone-chilling temperatures have swept across large portions of the nation already this winter, leaving not only humans vulnerable to the dangerous conditions but animals as well. 
Tragically, a neglected dog in Hartford, Connecticut, died when his caretakers left him outside in the freezing January weather.  According to local affiliate Fox61, a 3-year-old Pit Bull mix was found dead, chained, and frozen solid when a concerned neighbor called the authorities.
The news station reports that, according to police, "the dog's owner has been behind bars on drug charges for about six months and his family made arrangements for the dog to be cared for." The dog, who was reportedly living in the basement of the residence, was taken outside after a pipe had burst. 
When the dog was discovered by Hartford police he showed signs of hypothermia and the veterinary report stated that the dog, who had been lying in his own fecal matter, "Was underweight for his body size with low body fat and low muscle density. His bones were easily palpable and often visible beneath the skin —his ribs and pelvic bones were prominent."
Police suspect the dog could have been left outside upwards of a month. Animal cruelty charges are expected to be filed in the wake of the dog's horrific death. 
Sadly, neglegent owners leaving pets outside in the brutal cold is a far-too-common issue, and one that doesn't need to occur. 
Dr. Lori Bierbrier, the medical director of the ASPCA Community Medicine Department, tells petMD that pet owners should follow this simple guideline: "If it’s too cold outside for you, it’s too cold outside for your pet," she told petMD. "Pet owners should keep their pet’s exposure to the outdoors as minimal as possible." 
In addition to not leaving pets outside (or even in cars) in the cold or inclement weather, pet parents, "should ensure that all pets have access to warm, dry shelter and fresh (not frozen) water, as well as ensuring that all pets wear a collar and ID with up-to-date contact information," Bierbrier recommended. 
Dogs with short hair coats could benefit from wearing coats in the wintertime, Bierbrier added.  "If pet owners do use a dog coat, the most important thing is that it fit correctly," she said. 
"Animals left in extreme temperatures, especially without food and shelter, are at risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and death," she warned. "There is no doubt that the animal suffers significantly during this process." 
If you see that an animal, like the dog in Connecticut, is being abused and left out in the cold, call your local law enforcement, Bierbrier advised. "Before calling, note as many details as possible, including the date, time, exact location, and type of animal(s) involved." 
Image via Shutterstock 
Read more: How Cold is Too Cold for Your Dog?
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]]> care Care & Safety dog Mon, 08 Jan 2018 20:03:21 +0000 36691 at
Abandoned, Injured Rabbit Gets the Help She Needs  
During a fateful hike in 2013, in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, Elise Oliphant Vukosav and her husband came across an injured bunny that would change their lives. They, in turn, would forever change the bunny’s life as well.
The couple found the bunny huddled under a bush, unable to move her legs. “We knew she wasn't a wild bunny, so we gently picked her up and brought her back to a retreat center where we worked and fed her kale and water,” Vukosav recalls. “She was so hungry and thirsty, so we took that as a good sign she wanted to keep living.”
When they were unable to find an animal rescue that wouldn’t have to put the bunny down because of her spinal injury, Vukosav and her husband decided to adopt and care for the rabbit, who they named ChiChi. “We are so glad we did,” Vukosav says. “She’s been one of the biggest blessings of our life.”
While they don’t know what caused ChiChi’s spinal fracture, Vukosav points out that bunnies are very fragile and these sort of injuries are not uncommon.
ChiChi’s spinal injury causes her body to be out of alignment. “Her front legs have a tendency to want to splay,” Vukosav explains. To navigate these issues, they started ChiChi on physical therapy (including water, massage, and cold laser therapies) and got her a cart so she could get around with ease.
Now a little over 4 years old, ChiChi goes to therapy at the Animal Acupuncture and Rehabilitation Center in San Diego a few times a month, while Vukosav helps her at home with scarf therapy, mobility exercises, and massages.
“The various forms of therapy we've tried have helped her gain more strength in her front legs, and more mobility in her hind legs,” she says. “I think it's also provided enrichment for her and made her even more confident than she already was. Exercise is important for people, and for animals as well, so I think she really enjoys being able to be active.”
Of course, in addition to her physical activities, ChiChi has plenty of other things to keep her happy and motivated. As one of three rabbits cared for by the Vukosavs, ChiChi is bonded closely with her bunny brother, Mr. Magoo. “They are inseperable and he dotes on her, grooms her, snuggles her, and she reciprocates,” Vukosav says.
It’s hard not to fall in love with ChiChi, who Vukosav describes as “alert, attentive, loving, spunky, and very trusting.” She’s a brave and optimistic animal who is happy-go-lucky, no matter the circumstances, Vukosav adds.
It’s that very spirit that has forever changed Vukosav’s life and her perspective on animals and humans alike.
Caring for ChiChi has not only taught Vukosav how to care for a disabled rabbit, but also that “there's no such thing as normal, and every bunny—every animal—is beautiful, even if they don't maneuver in a usual fashion.”
“Most importantly,” she says, “ChiChi has taught me to be patient, kind, optimistic, to never lose hope, and to always take a chance on what might seem like the impossible.”
You can keep up with ChiChi on her very own website and Instagram, and help the Vukosavs care for her by visiting their YouCaring page. 
]]> Lifestyle & Entertainment rescue Fri, 05 Jan 2018 18:48:26 +0000 36687 at
Bettie Bee, the 'Janus' Kitten with Two Faces, Passes Away In her all-too-short 16 days of life, a kitten named Bettie Bee captured hearts and minds around the world. Born on Dec. 12 to a healthy house cat in South Africa, the kitten was born with an exceedingly rare genetic condition, known as 'Janus,' which caused her to be born with two faces. 
Taken in by a special needs rescuer, Bettie Bee quickly became a fascinating internet sensation, thanks to her popular Facebook page, which included photos and updates of the kitten. 
While Bettie Bee was mostly healthy in her first few days of life, her rescuer shared the sad news on Dec. 28 that the Janus cat had passed away. The kitten had reportedly come down with pneumonia at two weeks. "We suspect somehow some milk came up and went into her lungs,” her rescuer wrote. “[We] started with treatment immediately and thought we were winning until she vomited and got more milk in her lungs." 
Rather than make the kitten struggle or suffer, Bettie's rescuer brought her to the vet and had her peacefully put down. "For 16 days, I gave my all and so did she,” she told Facebook followers. “I would do it all over again. She deserved to have a chance at life but sadly it was not meant to be.” 
The kitten's Facebook page will remain up, but her story has left many people wondering what, exactly, is a Janus cat?
According to Dr. Jerold Bell of Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, the condition is "due to abnormal regulation of genes in the developing embryo, often involving a gene called sonic hedgehog (SHH)." (Yep, like the videogame character.) 
"Excess expression of SHH can cause the split facial development," Bell explained. "However, other genes can also cause split facial presentations. This is not due to fusion of two different embryos. Janus cats start from a single fertilized egg." 
In addition to having two faces, Janus cats can sometimes have a third ear or eye as well, and many have cleft palates, which prevents normal nursing behavior. 
Sadly, Janus cats do not have a long lifespan. Though there have been incredible exceptions to the rule—namely the famous Frank and Louie, who lived to be 15 years old—Bell said most Janus cats die within a few hours of being born, due to not being able to nurse properly. 
"The biggest obstacle is in their ability to breath and eat normally," he said. "There are often issues with the separation of the larynx (entry to the windpipe/trachea) and pharynx (entry to the food pipe/esophagus). This often causes them to aspirate food and die of pneumonia, which is what seemed to have occurred with [Bettie Bee]." 
While it is a very rare occurrence, Bell said that the mutation can be "seen in both mixed breed and purebred cats as a spontaneous congenital anomaly." 
Image via Facebook 
Read more: 8 Unusual Genetic Anomalies in Cats
]]> cat health kitten Strange But True Thu, 04 Jan 2018 15:25:55 +0000 36686 at
Puppy Rescued After Being Left in Freezing Car As temperatures plummet across the country, a puppy in Massachusetts serves as a harrowing reminder of the extra care and protection that must be given to pets during this frigid winter. 
On the cold evening of Dec. 30, when temperatures dipped as low as 3 degrees Fahrenheit in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, the Dartmouth Police Department responded to a call regarding a puppy who had been left in a car in a mall parking lot. 
According to a report released on the department's Facebook page, Dartmouth Police discovered that a young dog had been left in a parked vehicle for at least an hour. Responding officer Justin Amaral noted that the puppy was "shivering and rolled up in a ball" on the seat.
The puppy, who was seized by animal control and transported to a local veterinary hospital for evaluation, had "no adverse effects" to the incident and "was given a clear health status," Dartmouth Animal Control Officer Sandra Gosselin said. 
The dog's owner has been charged with cruelty to animals. However, according to Massachusetts law, "With removal of a dog from a vehicle, the owner may retrieve the dog from the Animal Control department/shelter after paying any and all expenses incurred," Gosselin noted. "The puppy was retrieved by its owner and [the owner] will be summoned into court at the request of the Dartmouth Police Department with regards to a cruelty complaint filed by them." 
Dr. Lori Bierbrier, medical director of the ASPCA’s Community Medicine Department, told petMD that extremely cold weather is very dangerous to pets. As she puts it, "If it’s too cold for you, then it is probably too cold for your pets."
No animal should be left outside in extreme weather, Bierbrier urged, as "dogs and cats can develop low body temperature (hypothermia), which can lead to death."
Unattended vehicles are no better for pets, Bierbrier said. "Cars can act like refrigerators and hold in cold, adding to the already stressful effects of low temperatures." 
Image via Shutterstock 
Read more: How Cold is Too Cold for Your Dog?
]]> care Care & Safety dog puppy safety Wed, 03 Jan 2018 15:03:50 +0000 36685 at
Cat Yoga: Another Fitness Fad? Cats and yoga…a crazy combination or not? First, full disclosure. As a practicing veterinarian whose clinic has held gold-level Cat Friendly Practice status since 2015 and has a complete cat gym upstairs (yes, a cat gymnasium), and as a guy who regularly travels with my cat, Bug, I may not represent your typical veterinarian. But I see cat yoga as having benefits for cats, cat owners, adoptable cats, and even the veterinary team that helps takes care of their health.
Benefits of Cat Yoga
The benefits of cat yoga, as I see them, are primarily socialization and behavior related. Anytime we can take a cat on a fun trip in the car to a place outside his home, it’s a good thing. Both cats and owners can learn that travel doesn’t need to be a traumatic event and we have better prepared them for their car trips to their annual veterinary why not a yoga session?
We conducted our first cat yoga session almost four years ago at one of our monthly Cats’ Night Out (CNO) events at Bug’s Cat Gym. Although we haven’t repeated it as of yet, we definitely will at some point. Other typical CNO events have included kitten olympics, kitten agility, cat beach theme parties, and holiday parties, all of which have two primary goals: find homes for adoptable cats and kittens, and bring cat owners together to discuss cat topics and provide education on preventive health and behavioral issues.
With repeat visits, over 80 percent of cat owners report that subsequent travels elsewhere were a bit easier on everyone. As most of the CNO attendees are our clients, that often means the next veterinary or grooming visit will be easier. If cat yoga is being held at a neighboring pet store or anywhere else, the travel benefits would be just the same, as long as the experience is completely cat friendly. The type of yoga that cats would prefer would likely not be power yoga, but instead alignment or flow with soft music and smaller groups.
Not all cats travel well, of course. Starting as early as possible will prepare kittens for travel later in life. When taking a car trip, the proper carrier, avoiding visual and auditory stress, having their favorite blanket, and calming pheremone products can help ensure a positive experience.  
We board healthy cats and often have adoptable cats and kittens staying in Bug’s Cat Gym. Cats who are seen in a natural environment versus a cage are much more likely to be adopted, in our experience. The same applies to a cat yoga class that has adoptable cats in a quiet serene environment—potential new pet owners get to see the cats at their best.
So what are the benefits for us as cat owners and yoga practitioners? The cat is one of the more gifted athletes in the animal world. We rarely see strains and sprains in cats because they stretch immediately upon awakening, and their motion is almost always smooth, flowing, and purposeful, as with yoga. If we all stretched, did yoga more often, and emulated a cat’s natural athleticism, we might stay a bit healthier, too.  
A cat’s mere presence is relaxing and should make any yoga session more enjoyable. And if an adoptable kitten happens to rest on someone in the final relaxation pose, it might just lead to a new yoga partner for life.
Dr. Ken Lambrecht is medical director of West Towne Veterinary Center, an AAHA-accredited, gold-level designated Cat Friendly Practice in Madison, Wisconsin. Dr. Ken currently serves on the Cat Friendly Practice Committee. He is pet parent to four cats, including Bug, his world traveling adventure cat.
]]> cat exercise View wellness Wed, 03 Jan 2018 13:07:30 +0000 36684 at
Asiatic Cheetah on the Brink of Extinction, Only 50 Remaining in the World One of the most remarkable creatures on the planet, the Asiatic cheetah, is nearing extinction. 
According to The Guardian, "Fewer than 50 of the critically endangered carnivores are thought to be left in the wild—all of them in Iran—and scientists fear that without urgent intervention there is little chance of saving one of the planet’s most distinctive and graceful hunters." 
The United Nations recently pulled funding to protect these animals, which put them at an even greater risk. Iranian conservationist Jamshid Parchizadeh told The Guardian that lack of funding and protection means certain death for the Asiatic cheetah. "Iran has already suffered from the loss of the Asiatic lion and the Caspian tiger," he stated. "Now we are about to see the Asiatic cheetah go extinct as well.”
The Asiatic cheetah, which is one of the fastest land animals on Earth, has seen a steady decline in population in Iran due to hunting, loss of habitat, and road accidents. (Before they were found in Iran, Asiatic cheetahs once lived in both India and Asia, but were driven out because of factors like hunting and farming.) 
While efforts have been made by conservationists and scientists over the years to save the Asiatic cheetah, the situation is dire. In a letter written to, Parchizadeh stated, "Bringing the Asiatic cheetah back from the brink of extinction will require close cooperation between governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations and grassroots stakeholders. The government’s wholehearted support is crucial." 
Dr. Laurie Marker, the founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, also recently wrote a letter that urged for open communication about the cheetah crisis, especially via technology. (She also pointed out that the Asiatic cheetah isn't the only type of cheetah in danger: "The harsh reality is cheetahs are on a crash-course with extinction. One hundred years ago, there were 100,000; today less than 8,000.") 
"We can share solutions with organizations in all cheetah home range territories and with people everywhere wishing to save this magnificent species for future generations," Marker wrote. "Humans have caused the problems that are threatening the cheetah, but we are also the only species that can save them." 
Image via Shutterstock 
Read more: Reptiles are at Risk of Extinction, Study Finds
]]> cat health Health & Science Wed, 20 Dec 2017 17:37:53 +0000 36657 at
Missed Diagnoses: What to Do When You Think Your Vet Is Missing Something You know your pet best, but your veterinarian has more expertise when it comes to medicine. So what are pet parents supposed to do when they have a sneaking suspicion that their veterinarian has missed something? The answer: communication. In other words, talk to your vet!
Veterinarians are only human. As much as we hate to admit it, we can overlook things and make mistakes. Good vets understand this and are open to being questioned, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to approach this conversation. Here are three recommendations for talking about the possibility of a misdiagnosis or treatment error with your vet.
Attitude Matters
If you want your veterinarian to be open to acknowledging that they could be wrong, you should be willing to concede the same thing. Perhaps the vet has made a mistake, but something else might be going on, too. Your pet’s case may be especially difficult, require advanced testing, or they could be having an unusual response to treatment…the list of potential complications is almost endless. Go into the conversation with an open mind. You and your veterinarian are a team who can provide the best care for your pet when you work together.
That said, don’t be afraid of offending your veterinarian. Any doctor who can’t handle questions from an owner who obviously has their pet’s best interests at heart isn’t worth worrying about (or returning to).
Be Prepared
Your veterinarian is going to want to know what it is about your pet’s situation that makes you think that they have missed something. Come prepared with a list of symptoms that worry you. Maybe something has changed or you’ve remembered something since the last time you spoke. Be sure to bring that up. Admit that you have consulted Dr. Google (We know you have. We do it too when it comes to our own health.) and bring up any conditions that you are specifically concerned about.
Don’t expect all of your questions to be answered on the phone. There is a very good chance that your vet will need to examine your pet and perhaps even run some new tests. A pet’s condition can change rapidly, so what might not have been evident initially could be readily apparent at a recheck.
Go with Your Gut
If after all of this you are still worried about your pet’s care, it’s time for a second opinion. Ask your veterinarian if they think a referral to a specialist is in order, or if you’d rather not have that conversation, you can schedule an appointment for a second opinion yourself. Just make sure that you provide a complete copy of all your pet’s medical records so the new veterinarian is up-to-date on the testing and treatment that has already taken place.
If your pet’s symptoms are vague and relatively mild, you can make an appointment with a general practitioner. Ask around or look at online reviews to find a veterinarian who seems to be a good fit. If, however, your pet’s condition is more serious, getting the services of a specialist would be best. The website includes listings for specialists who are board-certified in surgery, internal medicine, cardiology, neurology, and oncology. Other types of specialists can be found through these links:

American Veterinary Dental College
American College of Veterinary Dermatology
American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists
American College of Veterinary Nutrition
American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation
Society for Theriogenology (Reproduction)
American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care

A misdiagnosis can have serious consequences. Don’t delay in getting your pets the care they need.
]]> care cat dog View Mon, 18 Dec 2017 21:08:11 +0000 36656 at
Montreal Lifts Controversial Pit Bull Ban More than a year after the city of Montreal decided to ban Pit Bulls and similar breeds, the controversial law has now been reversed. 
In September 2016, it became illegal for citizens of Montreal to adopt Pit Bulls or other "at-risk" dogs, including Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers. Pet parents who already owned the banned breeds would have to get permits and keep their dogs leashed and muzzled in public. 
As of Dec. 20, 2017, the breed ban—which was met with criticism from both dog owners and advocates—will be lifted. 
According to CTV News, councilman Craig Sauvé stated that all dogs should be looked at the same. Sophie Gallard of the Montreal SPCA, a prominent organization in the fight against the ban, told CTV, "We’re very happy to know that we’ll be able to place all our dogs into adoption." 
In a statement released to petMD, Montreal's Compassionate Animal Adoption Rescue said, "We are thrilled that the newly elected leadership in Montreal has decided to listen to the experts, to science when it comes to the ineffectiveness of breed specific legislation.
"We look forward to once again being able to help Pit Bull-looking dogs find forever homes, though we recognize that this will take time in light of their damaged reputation as a result of the former administration," the statement continued, adding that the ultimate goal is "to make our city a truly safer place for humans and dogs alike." 
Image via Shutterstock 
Read more: Life With Pets: All About Pit Bulls
]]> Care & Safety dog safety Mon, 18 Dec 2017 14:35:12 +0000 36653 at
Life With Pets, Mini-Episode 6: Dental Hygiene [podcast]
On this week's mini-episode of petMD's podcast, Life With Pets, host Victoria Schade takes a question about a pug who prefers to skip dental hygiene, helps a dog mom with a puppy that's a part-time piranha, and addresses the age-old tug-of-war dominance debate. (Spoiler alert: It's OK to play tug with your dog!)
Got a pressing pet question you want answered? Use #AskLifeWithPets, and you might end up on a future episode! 
]]> dental dog Lifestyle & Entertainment Mon, 18 Dec 2017 11:45:38 +0000 36655 at
6 Reasons Why It’s Hard for Veterinarians to Talk About Overweight Pets I’ve been a veterinarian for many years, but obesity is really something that all of us who love pets and want them to feel good and live long and healthy lives need to address. With pet obesity at epidemic levels (over 58 percent) weight management needs to be talked about. Pet owners deserve clear instructions, including what food and how much to feed...but why would a client feel that they didn’t get a clear recommendation or plan from their veterinarian?
1. Many pet owners won’t acknowledge that their pet is overweight or don't equate their pet being overweight with illness. The fact is that even pets who are 15 percent overweight (an ideal weight cat of 10 pounds who weighs just 11.5 pounds) already have inflammatory changes in the body causing damage. Getting the client to acknowledge the problem can make the discussion delicate and time consuming. The veterinarian may feel they risk losing trust with the client and may not go there (or go there strongly enough). At our clinic, we simply focus on always being the pet’s advocate and try and communicate the risks and benefits of obesity as clearly as possible without offending.
2.  A body condition score (BCS), body weight and muscle condition score (MCS) need to be taken routinely and trends monitored. We have good tools to do this and can easily teach the owner how to monitor these at home. An accurate scale and good visuals help everyone in the family understand the goal. Monthly reassessment is recommended if pets are more than 20 percent overweight. But repeat visits also take time and cats, in particular, are usually not fond of car rides. We try and paint reassessment visits as “easy, friendly visits” and a good time to pick up food or flea, tick, or heartworm preventives.
3. A safe, effective food recommendation must be made. With over 15,000 different brands, there is currently no way for the veterinarian (or pet owner) to easily choose a safe, healthy food. That along with the “over-marketing” of grain-free, raw, and natural foods, which many times are not science-based at all, can cause us to hesitate on a recommendation. If the pet is 20 percent or more overweight, almost all board-certified veterinary nutritionists highly recommend a prescription diet for the pet to safely lose weight without losing muscle mass or depleting micronutrients. The top pet food companies all have Rx diets that are moderate calorie and higher in protein that burn fat while maintaining muscle condition and satisfying the pet. 
4. The correct number of calories needs to be calculated. Calorie calculation has been made much easier by the Pet Nutrition Alliance (PNA) nutritional calculator. The PNA does not recommend a food, but based on your pet’s current BCS, it will give a starting calorie number. (Again, reassessment is stressed.)
5. Veterinarians, in general, are no better trained in nutrition than physicians. There are only 85 board-certified veterinary nutritionists in the world. Some veterinary schools aren't lucky enough to have one, they are in such short supply. But there are more and more continuing education courses focusing on weight management and the profession is slowly coming up to speed.
6. Treating pet obesity involves changing how we feed our pets, so it can be an emotional, not a “fun” topic. OK, so neither are fleas, ticks, and vaccines, necessarily, but getting a client motivated to change strong pet-feeding-related behaviors can be challenging. At our clinic, we hold an annual “Pets Reducing for Rescues” contest, donating money to rescues to increase the fun, and client motivation and buy-in. By rewarding with prizes like activity monitors, microchipped and automatic feeders, under litter box scales, etc., and holding regular weigh-ins, people are more engaged and find that weight loss isn't so difficult after all. We even have a fully equipped cat gym (yes, a cat gym!) to send the message of how important home activity is and to gather cat owners monthly to discuss nutrition and cats’ indoor needs.
Yes, we are sometimes fighting an uphill battle with all these obstacles. But the goal is a vital one. It has been proven that ideal weight dogs live an average of 15 percent longer, and that has been proven in most other species, too. Just as importantly, they feel better, have less medical problems, are more active, and the human health bond is enriched. It can be done. As they say, let's just do it!
Dr. Ken Lambrecht is medical director of West Towne Veterinary Center, an AAHA-accredited, gold-level designated Cat Friendly Practice in Madison, Wisconsin. Dr. Ken currently serves on the Cat Friendly Practice Committee. He is pet parent to four cats, including Bug, his world traveling adventure cat.
]]> cat dog health View Thu, 14 Dec 2017 14:48:54 +0000 36647 at
Research Reveals What Your Dog Is Really Thinking I would love to talk to my dog—or at least know what he is thinking. Dr. Gregory Berns is trying to do just that. Berns, a researcher and physician at Emory University in Atlanta, has been doing the impossible since 2011. That is when he started studies with dogs trained to stay absolutely still in an MRI scanner to see how their brains respond to various tasks.
The same MRI machine that your doctor uses to look at your injured joints can be recalibrated to measure brain activity, a technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). fMRI measures blood flow to different parts of the brain. The researchers then correlate that variation in blood flow to the tasks the dog (or human) performs to interpret what the dog thinks.
Your Dog Loves You as Much as Food
In one task constructed by Berns, the dogs were rewarded with either praise from their human or a food reward. When the results of all of the dogs were analyzed together, there was no difference in the magnitude of the response between the two types of rewards. That means that averaged together, dogs seemed to love food just as much as they loved their people. But when the results from each dog were analyzed individually, that’s when everything became interesting.
As he described in his new book, “What It’s Like to Be a Dog,” Berns saw real personality differences between the dogs who volunteered for the study. Some were chow-hounds—always searching for that extra morsel of food. Others sought approval from their people during the training phase of tasks. These differences were apparent in how the dogs’ brains responded to the different types of rewards. This kind of confirmation that brain activity matches temperament makes way for more complex studies of canine cognition.
I have one of those dogs who is easy to read. He loves people and other dogs first and food is way behind, bringing up the rear. I can put food on the floor and he will sit and wait for the cue to eat it. But if a new person comes to visit, there is no holding him back. I know where he would fall in the spectrum of Berns’s research dogs.
Understanding the Canine Thought Process
In his book, Berns describes several of his other recent studies, including that dogs recognize faces using a special part of the brain analogous to the structure in the human brain. Dogs have evolved alongside humans for thousands of years and have relied on their ability to read human emotions for their food and shelter. Therefore, it’s illuminating but not surprising that dogs have a special part of their brain dedicated to facial processing.
Apart from dogs, Berns and his colleagues also study the brains of other animals, including dolphins, sea lions, and Tasmanian devils. Though that last species may seem like an odd choice, Berns was trying to better understand the extinct thylacine of the Australian continent. Very little is known about the thylacine, a wolf-like marsupial driven to extinction by the sheepherders from its last stronghold in Tasmania in the early 1900s. Some believe a small population still exists in the wild backcountry of the island. In addition to satisfying his intellectual curiosity, Berns hopes that by studying preserved brains from museum collections he can shed light into the behavior of the animal. And, if there is an existing population, help field researchers locate the remaining individuals.
This kind of research into animal neuroscience, studying how animals think, has real utility, too. As Berns discussed recently with The New York Times, dogs raised to be service dogs undergo extensive and expensive training for years before they can be paired with a person. But Berns and his colleagues found that dogs who show more activity in areas of the brain associated with self-control are more likely to succeed at their training. Earlier screening would allow organizations who train service dogs to focus their energy on those puppies more likely to succeed.
The next frontier, in my opinion, is understanding what makes working dogs good at their jobs. What is it in the brain of a Border Collie that makes her so good at herding sheep or the brain of a Bird Dog that makes him so excellently focused on flushing quail? Just as many tests of conformation have helped improve the health of breeds, might pre-breeding brain scans promote breed function and mental health?
As an advocate for shelter dogs, I would love to see brain studies applied to those dogs who need the most help finding homes. Not all dogs are cut out for participating in these kinds of studies. Berns and his colleagues spent years working with a very select group of dogs who were able to stay still and who wanted to participate. But I think all dogs can benefit from this kind of research that allows us to peek inside dogs’ brains to learn a little bit of how they think.
Dr. Elfenbein is a veterinarian and animal behaviorist located in Atlanta. Her mission is to provide pet parents with the information they need to have happy, and healthy, and fulfilled relationships with their dogs and cats.
]]> behavior dog Health & Science Wed, 13 Dec 2017 22:06:20 +0000 36646 at
Canine Cancer Genome Project Gets $1 Million in Funding for Research The Animal Cancer Foundation (ACF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding novel treatment therapies and eventual cures for cancer, recently received a $1 million donation from the Blue Buffalo Foundation in support of its Canine Cancer Genome Project. The project could lead to major breakthroughs in cancer research for dogs and humans alike. 
The project aims to map the tumor genomes of the most common canine cancers, to not only improve early detection but also treatment. This important genetic information will help cancer researchers accelerate their research to benefit pets and people, ACF stated.
According to ACF, the most common cancers in pets are also very common in people, particularly children. "There are so many similarities between the cancers in people and the cancers in animals," said ACF board member Dr. Gerald Post.
By getting a better understanding of normal dog genomes, ACF will be able to take a closer look at the cancer genomes. "This is the project that will get us closer and faster to answers than anything else," Post said. 
This critical data will be made available to cancer researchers in every realm, as well as the general public, "who have an emotional connection and want the best for their dogs and other dogs," said Barbara Cohen, executive director of ACF. 
Once the project reaches $2 million in funding, Cohen said, researchers are expected to release information within 12 to 18 months. 
Image via Shutterstock 
Read more: 10 Most Common Types of Tumors and Cancers in Dogs
]]> cancer dog Health & Science Wed, 13 Dec 2017 16:07:06 +0000 36645 at
Life With Pets, Episode 6: All About Pit Bulls [podcast]
In the sixth episode of petMD's Life With Pets, host Victoria Schade welcomes journalist and author Bronwen Dickey to talk about her book "Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon." Fellow dog trainer and Pit Bull advocate Lori Nanan stops by to answer a listener question about the "Pit Bulls need a heavy hand" training myth, and radio personality Richard Hunter tells a story about his best friend Mel, a Pit Bull rescued from Michael Vick's dog fighting ring.
Listen to more episodes and subscribe so you don't miss out!
]]> dog Lifestyle & Entertainment rescue training Mon, 11 Dec 2017 20:21:23 +0000 36644 at